University of New Orleans International Summer School in Innsbruck

by Günter Bischof

The University of New Orleans (UNO) International Summer School opened its 30th session with a spectacular gala event at the Innsbruck Congress House on July 3, 2005. The European Foundation for Culture (based in Basel, Switzerland) conferred the prestigious Euro-Atlantic Culture Award on both Chancellor Timothy Ryan of the University of New Orleans and President Manfried Gantner of the University of Innsbruck for their leadership in the model university partnership in trans-Atlantic education, which has existed since 1982. Ambassador Emil Brix from the Austrian Foreign Ministry in Vienna heaped glowing praise on the program which has conducted sessions in Innsbruck since 1976, bringing more than 7,000 American students and some 700 faculty members to the lovely Alpine capital of the Tyrol. The Summer School has spawned numerous other exchanges and activities between the two universities, and also led to the 1998 establishment of CenterAustria at UNO. Innsbruck's Mayor Hilde Zach warmly welcomed the American guests to the Inn River metropolis. Gordon "Nick" Mueller, founder of the Summer School and currently Director of the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, was present and took great pleasure in the Summer School's long-term accomplishments.


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The UNO International Summer School conducted its 30th session from the beginning of July to mid-August 2005. More than 250 students from all over the American South participated in this six-week summer program. The University of Georgia in Athens, GA, has been a cherished partner of the UNO Summer School for ten years now, sending some 120 students to Innsbruck this past summer, and President Michael Adams was present at the opening assembly. The University of Mississippi has also entered into a partnership with the Summer School. The University of Alabama and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge sent strong student contingents, as did smaller liberal arts colleges such as Washington & Lee (VA) and Furman (SC). In addition, 50 students from the University of Innsbruck participated in the Summer School courses free of charge. The Innsbruck students enlivened class discussions, brought a European viewpoint to the courses, and got to meet and become friends with the American students. By all accounts from Summer School faculty, the intellectual contributions of Innsbruck students added a unique and challenging perspective to the classroom for American students.

The academic director for the UNO International Summer School is appointed annually, and selects the faculty based on courses in which students are interested. Some 50 different courses are offered every summer. This past summer, courses in history, art history, political science, German, Italian, psychology, geology, communications, business, management, economics, and finance were taught. Professor Edward Larson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian from the University of Georgia, was on the faculty, as was Loch Johnson, a noted Georgia political scientist and expert on American secret intelligence. Stephen Plotkin, a retired New Orleans judge and distinguished jurist at Tulane Law School, taught courses in business law. Alexander Lassner, a young historian with the US Air Force Command and Staff College in Montgomery, AL, regaled his students with the finer points of military history, and Bridget Bordelon from UNO made a lasting impression with her engaging lectures on sports tourism. In addition, guest lecturers from all over Austria and Germany were invited to individual courses to deepen the course content and provide additional and more complex European perspectives.

 

Exhausting weekend-long field trips and afternoon excursions further enriched the classroom instruction. Art history students visited Venice for a weekend and marveled at St. Mark's Cathedral, the ancient Torcello churches, and the Academia and Guggenheim museums, capped off with the spectacular fireworks of the Redemptore weekend. Anthropology students traveled through the South Tyrol for a weekend, hiked up to the Churburg and Tyrol castles, and saw "Ötzi," the Tyrolean iceman, in his Bozen museum; the great-grandsons of Ezra Pound conducted a wine tasting for students at the Brunnenburg Castle, and Pound's daughter Mary de Rachewiltz presented a warm portrait of the great poet who lived in the castle in his later years. The weekend culminated in a bus ride through the amazing Dolomites. All-day field trips to Dachau concentration camp and Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden exposed students to the history of National Socialism, as did an exhibit on the NS presence in Western Austria during World War II. Local field trips visited the Stigl brewery in Salzburg, the salt mines of Hall, the Swarowski factories in Wattens, the studio of Tyrolese sculptor Hubert Flörl, and the regional Austria TV studio, as well as local visits to the venerable Grassmayr bell factory, the famous ski jump, banks, and museums. Although students were often overwhelmed by impressions from these intense fieldtrips, these are the memories that will remain with them in years to come.

On long weekends with no classes, students used their Euro train passes to travel all over Europe, from Amsterdam to Croatia. They went canyoning in Interlaken, Switzerland, and hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy. Prague was probably the favorite destination this summer, as students explored the local establishments and enjoyed the beverages denied to underage teenagers in the US. Although limited in linguistic skills, they engaged Europeans wherever they traveled. The hope of the program is that they become worthy American "ambassadors" on the old continent, and thus help mitigate current European-American political tensions.


For further information on the UNO International Summer School, please contact
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